Books About Education

Pope Piux XI on education

Hence every form of pedagogic naturalism which in any way excludes or weakens supernatural Christian formation in the teaching of youth, is false. Every method of education founded, wholly or in part, on the denial or forgetfulness of original sin and of grace, and relying on the sole powers of human nature, is unsound. Such, generally speaking, are those modern systems bearing various names which appeal to a pretended self-government and unrestrained freedom on the part of the child, and which diminish or even suppress the teacher's authority and action, attributing to the child an exclusive primacy of initiative, and an activity independent of any higher law, natural or divine, in the work of his education.

If any of these terms are used, less properly, to denote the necessity of a gradually more active cooperation on the part of the pupil in his own education; if the intention is to banish from education despotism and violence, which, by the way, just punishment is not, this would be correct, but in no way new. It would mean only what has been taught and reduced to practice by the Church in traditional Christian education, in imitation of the method employed by God Himself towards His creatures, of whom He demands active cooperation according to the nature of each; for His Wisdom "reacheth from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly."

-- Pope Pius XI, On Christian Education

A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning

Author(s): 
Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Copyright: 
2000
Publisher: 
Intercollegial Studies Institute
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
52 pages
Review: 

One thing people who homeschool worry a lot about is what college to send their children to. Many people homeschool to provide their children with the right kind of education—religious, liberal, etc. The last thing we want is for a bunch of flaky atheist, deconstructionist professors--or dorm life--to undermine our children’s assent and conformity to the natural and supernatural truths of our faith. So, do we send our children to one of those super-Catholic schools that are listed in the Cardinal Newman Society Guide? Or do we send them to one of the older, well established, but secularized to varying degrees Catholic universities and hope for a good campus ministry? Or a secular university, whether private or public? Is the Newman center okay? Will our children lose their faith? Their morals?

The answer, of course, varies with the child. All things being equal all Catholic schools should be genuinely Catholic and genuinely universities. If that were the case the decision would be a no-brainer, setting finances aside, because a genuinely Catholic university is the only real university there is. Alas, not all Catholic universities are Catholic. Not all fields are available at the Catholic schools that are. And many people can’t afford a private college or university of any sort. So, many people find it better to send their children to a state school or a Catholic school where the administration and faculty seem to have missed the memo (Ex Corde Ecclesia) about the meaning of Catholic identity.

The university, Catholic or not, has become a place where the focus is on the attainment of information that will lead to an increase of power, and the teaching of a sophistic rhetoric that will persuade others to allow you to exercise that power. Knowledge as such has become the only activity of the University, without any attention to the personal context of the cultivation of knowledge, or the practical significance of knowledge for living a good life—to the acquisition of wisdom. University students need wisdom as well as knowledge precisely at the age they are at and the university, where the student spends most of his time, needs to provide for the formation of the whole person, not just the intellect.

So, if you choose one of the schools that are not Catholic to the core can you count on losing your child to the secular humanists? Certainly not. Let us hope that our home education has given our children a good, solid foundation from which to negotiate the crazy things that are said and done out there, especially at the University.

Of course, our children can’t rest on their laurels. Neither can we. Because they will be growing exponentially as persons during their college years, they will need to continue their education as persons, not just professional training. First in importance, of course, is an active spiritual life and continued study of the faith. Also important, indeed essential, is a continued effort at a formation of the mind that corresponds to our genuine human nature and calling. And this does not merely mean studying the Catechism or encyclicals. It means learning to think like a Catholic about all things, such as politics, art, and science. It means gaining something that approximates a Catholic, liberal education.

Most universities, Catholic or otherwise, do not seem to know how to form the intellect according to the Catholic pattern, so our children will need guidance from somewhere else, especially if we ourselves did not get and have not since acquired such an education. Fortunately, that guidance is available in the person of James V. Schall, S.J., professor at Georgetown (a particularly secularized Catholic University).

In A Student’s Guide to: Liberal Learning, James V. Schall, S.J. gives some attention to the deficiencies of the contemporary university education and offers the discontent university student, or any adult serious about life, a three-pronged remedy.

Schall’s book can best be described as a 12-step program for higher education. First, we have to be aware of and acknowledge the problem in higher education and we have to admit we can’t do anything about it on our own. We are powerless before the relativistic forces of professional intellectuals. Then we have to know that a solution exists, help is available. Then we need to seek it.

The help that Schall proposes is threefold. “We need some self-discipline, our own personal library where we keep what we read, and real good guides” (p. 49). In order to remain intellectually sane in the poisonous atmosphere of many universities and the world around us, a person must take an antidote—which is a guided reading of the good books in the tradition of classical western liberal arts, whether ancient (Plato) or modern (Flannery O’Connor).

1. Self-discipline. The emphasis on reading makes the focus of the book on the intellectual life. Schall highlights, however, the role that moral disorder plays in losing sight the truth. “There is an intimate connection between our moral life and our intellectual life” (p 30). Although, as Newman held, the teaching of knowledge is the purpose of the university, that does not mean that the university is absolved from helping the student form his will so he can achieve his intellectual goals. Those for whom the formation of the intellect is the primary concern cannot neglect the moral virtues without sacrificing the intellectual ones as well. Although, Schall does not directly address the proper way to attend to the formation of the will, he does state that moral virtues are as important for the formation of the intellect as intellectual virtues. The focus is on the human mind which cannot function properly outside of a healthy will and body and affections. “If we do not have our lives in order under the rule of right reason, we will simply not see the first principles of reasoning and of living” (p. 11).

Intellectual virtues themselves are important as well: He, for instance, encourages, without naming them, the classical intellectual disciplines of the mind, the trivium of the liberal arts. The liberal arts aren’t just knowledge, but arts, distinct from the useful and fine, but arts nonetheless, directed at understanding and communicating the truth. That is why such books as Adler’s How to Read a Book, Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life, and Schumacher’s A Guide to the Perplexed are as important as the great texts themselves, such as Augustine’s Confessions. Reading even great books without a mind trained in something like the trivium is less likely to gain true knowledge that can be communicated and put into action. We will be left with good, vague feelings about a text, but no clear understanding of how the ideas in the book relate to the whole.

2. Good books. One of the best features of this book is the lists. Not only do we find “Schall’s Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By” as Appendix I, but throughout the text there are short lists, serious ones, such as, “”Five Books on Thomas Aquinas,” “Five Classic Texts on Philosophy,” “Six Classic Texts never to be left unread,” “Seven Books About Universities,” and quirky and whimsical ones, such as “Three of the More than One-Hundred P.G. Wodehouse Novels” and “Four Books Once Found at a Used Book Sale.” Names of other good books not on any of the lists are sprinkled throughout the book. They are listed in the bibliography of the online version.

But, even good books aren’t all equally valuable. Being the good guide he is, Schall does not leave us without indication of what is the most essential reading. The two most important books are the Bible and Shakespeare. The seven intellectual heroes for Schall are: God (the Bible), Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine and Aquinas. Honorable mention may be given to Eric Voegelin.

3. The need for guidance (authority). Schall is proposing initiation into a wisdom tradition, not just an intellectual ‘great conversation.” This implies a prior judgment of the value of given books: an authority. It is not enough, as in some Great Books programs, to be introduced into the Great Conversation about what is true or whether the truth is knowable. For young readers such an encounter can lead to confusion and cynicism. Great books don’t answer the question about what is true (p. 23), unless we already know how to tell. What is really needed is a prior judgment about those works that in fact articulate some aspect of the knowable and known truth and center our intellectual formation on them. This is done quite readily in particular disciplines, such as physics or economics. Why not in knowledge as such or knowledge as a whole? Schall has positioned himself as a master, a guide. He is pointing to the texts of intellectual sanity. This does not absolve our irreplaceable need to make our own judgment about the truth of the good books our guides suggest. Schall makes it clear that ideas need to be tested by the reader against their own experience (p. 41) and college students are at an age when they need to take responsibility to discern the truth of what they hear.

The goal of a liberal education as conceived by Schall is not just knowledge, but sanity—a mind that corresponds to the real so the person can act according to the truth and make decisions about the organization of his personal life and society that are in accord with the nature of the parts, the whole and their relationship. “Just because someone is smart does not mean he is wise” (p. 8.) The goal of the university is the cultivation of the intellect. But that intellect needs most of all to be able to address the meaning of the whole and our place in it and relation to it. Although we can “know” a truth, it isn’t actually true for us until we can and do act upon it. Our actions reveal what we believe (p. 21). Schall himself speaks on page one of “knowledge for its own sake.” He follows quickly, however, on page two with an assertion that we need not only “to know what is,” but also “to know what we ought to do” (p. 2).

The classic liberal tradition is precisely that, a wisdom tradition to be handed on. Because modern university culture has been deeply influenced by a philosophy of liberal education that believes that the critical faculty is the most important faculty of the human intellect, rather than the ability to receive and understand the accumulated wisdom of the ages, we have to cultivate the latter on our own.

Although this book is intended to be a guide for undergraduates, it may be equally useful for the many of us parents who may not have had access to a genuinely Catholic liberal education. And even those of us that did can benefit greatly from many of the books on Schall’s great lists. I personally have discovered in the past six months at least one life-changing book by reading Schall's Student's Guide.

A fuller version of the book can be found online here.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
12-3-2007
Reviewed by: 

Discover Your Child's Learning Style

Author(s): 
Mariaemma Willis, M.S.
Victoria Kindle Hodson, M. A.
Copyright: 
1999
Publisher: 
Prima Lifestyles
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
325 pages
Resource Type: 
Review: 

If you have been wondering what is the key to getting your reluctant learner excited about math, science, or any other academic subject, Discover Your Child's Learning Style may be what you have been looking for. Written to the parents of public, private, or homeschooled students, the authors' goals are for the parents to get on their child's "team", have the child take the learning profile (learning assessment test), and coach him to learning success. Not just a book for students from an institutionalized setting, the authors make references throughout the text to various types of school settings.

With a combined experience of 45 years, these authors are dedicated to helping children succeed in their love of learning. They believe that by tapping into the child's learning style, the child will naturally love to learn. The child's learning style includes the child's talents, interests, modality, environment, and disposition. One of the best things about this book is that the authors recognize that you, the parent, are your child's primary teacher. They hope to have a positive effect on children's attitudes toward learning through the parents' powerful influence and involvement.

The authors begin by encouraging parents to develop a proper attitude. For example, parents need to take an active role in the child's education. They should also learn to "celebrate" the child for who he is and not criticize the child for who he is not. They encourage parents to model good behavior for their children. They encourage strengthening the bonds between children and their parents in additional ways as well.

After you have your child take the learning style profile, you will learn about the five different aspects covered in the test: disposition, talents, interests, modality, and environment. The various categories for disposition include someone who performs, produces, invents, relates/inspires or thinks/creates. The areas of talent include music, math-logic, mechanical reasoning, spatial, word-language reasoning, and seven more. In assessing the child's interests, the authors note that the child's interests may differ at home than from those at school. Modality refers to the type of learner your child is. This is what we most often associate with learning style. Is the child an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner? These can help assess the child's learning environment for improvements. Some factors to consier include: does the child prefer quiet or noise, laying down or sitting at a desk, a bright or dim light? You can see that the authors' definition of learning style is broader and more variable than most.

Because of the lengthy and detailed descriptions of the various dispositions (perform, produce, invent, relate/inspire or think/create), the child or parent should easily be able to identify which disposition is closest to the child. Since they are presenting material associated with the child's learning style, their perspective is from an educational standpoint. They begin by describing a person who fits that disposition. For example, a performer is a person who is "bright, witty, and outspoken." As adults, they are entertainers, actors, athletes, trial lawyers, etc. They then go on to discuss the learning characteristics, the preferred setting for learning, what that child contributes to a situation, the areas of growth, the relationship conflicts between a child of one disposition and a teacher of an opposing disposition, the ideal curriculum, homework helps, and motivators. At the end of each chapter, they also offer a quick reference chart with the program emphasis, preferred activities, helpful materials with exact titles for specific subjects, and teaching techniques. As parents, we need to also keep in mind that sometimes we can adapt the materials we already own by employing different teaching techniques.

If you are beginning to be overwhelmed with all the terminology or aspects of a child's learning style, don't be. There are lots of charts and graphs that clearly explain what should work best for your child. There is an incredible amount of information in this book, including putting the plan to work, dealing with special needs children, pages of recommended resources, and much more. Whether you are having difficulty with teaching your child or not, Discover Your Child's Learning Style has much to offer and much to digest. Since one of our goals as parents is to have our children reach their full potential, this book may help you to see your child in a totally new light.

Review Date: 
10-29-05
Reviewed by: 

Learning Styles Test and Evaluation

Author(s): 
Dr. Andrea Chen
Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
Mercy Academy
Review: 

(Additional Review)

I just had three of my children (grades 1, 3 and 6) tested for learning styles through Mercy Academy. The test is quite simple and has to do with likes, dislikes, ways of interacting and how they think about problems. Older children can take the test on their own, while younger ones might need a little supervision. I was very impressed with the thoroughness and usefulness of the analysis and evaluation given.

Each of my children received a unique 7-10 page analysis based on five different "preferences and modes of learning":

  1. General mode of interacting with the world
  2. Method of taking in information and viewing the world
  3. Center of influence in decision-making
  4. Method of organizing information about the world
  5. Preference for processing information

The author explains the analysis in this way: "The following description of your child is based on hundreds of studies conducted by educators and psychologists over the past thirty years. If your child answered the questions in the inventory sincerely, the following report should sound familiar and will serve as an important tool to help you understand and teach your child. Since all of us were created as unique individuals, you may find that your child does not have all of the characteristics included in this report, but the majority should accurately reflect your child's learning style and personality."

The analysis includes: main personality characteristics, tips for the best environment for them to study in, detailed guidance on modes of presentation and potential intellectual/moral pitfalls, ideas for handling problems they have with learning, and important skill areas to develop. This written analysis is followed by lists of "Key Points to Remember", types of materials that work best, things to avoid and sample curriculum recommendations (with an emphasis on Catholic materials where possible!).

Although any one of my children individually would have benefitted greatly from my application of the results of this test, it was particularly fascinating to have three children tested and compare the results. The entire report is highly customized for each child according to the five key factors listed above. The accuracy of the points and ideas in each analysis astounded me. While I was vaguely aware of the differences between auditory and visual learners, reading these results opened a whole new world and a much better sense of the big picture of what my children need and how I can best help them. (I even learned a bit about myself in various pieces by seeing my own traits in my children!) While some pieces of my children's learning styles were merely expanded and reinforced, there were some ideas that were new to me (like different needs in terms of study environment) that we've been implementing with great success. Some of the types of details that have come up include: need for discussion time with parents, balance between textbooks and more unconventional methods of learning, competition, and pointers on avoiding distraction and frustration for each child.

Reading these evaluations and beginning the process of implementation has been both challenging and encouraging at the same time. Challenging because I can see a number of the pitfalls and difficult areas more clearly. Encouraging because I more fully understand that unusual traits aren't necessarily negative or abnormal, but can be worked with successfully and even beneficial when fully appreciated.

The test and evaluations were put together by a Catholic homeschool mother of 6 with a PhD in Psychology and many years of experience in homeschooling her own children and counseling other homeschool families.

Review Date: 
5-5-05
Reviewed by: 

Learning Styles Test and Evaluation

Author(s): 
Dr. Andrea Chen
Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
Mercy Academy
Review: 

$25 per student

Truly a unique offering, the Learning Styles assessment from Mercy Academy provides a wonderful opportunity for a homeschooling parent to learn how to better teach their child(ren). Understanding the best way in which a child learns, as well as learning how to strengthen their weaker areas, will make each day's lessons more productive and less frustrating. You will not necessarily need to purchase new curriculum in each subject area; instead, you will learn how to use any materials more effectively.

The Learning Styles Test is available year-round. Each of the test questions is short and easy to answer, requiring only a click of the mouse. You may need to read the questions to the very youngest students. Although the test is several online pages long, it can be completed in about thirty minutes. If you are interrupted, you can resume the testing at a later time. Results are immediately available.

These results are the gold nuggets! The student responses to seeminly-simple questions provide a rich, personalized analysis that requires careful attention. In fact, the author recommends that you read it several times and at several different levels. This in-depth document includes an overview of the student's learning style, instructions for understanding and using the test results effectively, and a multi-page, detailed description of this type of learner based on an analysis of five different identifying categories. Following this are "Key Points to Remember", which summarize the description. Next, very specific teaching techniques and teaching materials advice, resulting from extensive research and testing, are included. These recommendations include curricular materials by name with purchasing information, advice as to where and how the student should be studying, as well as specific things to avoid.

I tested several of my children, and I was astounded at the variations amongst them. I had naively assumed that there would be more overlap between them, but the resulting descriptions fit each child very closely. Even after homeschooling for many, many years, I found that I had a great deal to learn! This testing process saved me months of effort and many, many dollars in curricular purchases that would not be best suited for the particular child who was tested. I also appreciated the recommendations for which children especially need to have regular outside-the-home opportunities as well as those for whom distractions are a problem. My older children read and studied their own assessments, finding the descriptions very accurate. I believe that these will be very useful to them as they consider potential careers and college choices. This was a very worthwhile experience for our entire family.

Review Date: 
5-5-05
Reviewed by: 

Nurture Shock

New Thinking About Children
Author(s): 
Po Bronson
Ashley Merryman
Copyright: 
2009
Publisher: 
Twelve
Number of pages: 
327 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

NurtureShock is a parenting book with a strong scientific foundation that's designed to have a big impact on breaking some of society's misguided conventions regarding parenting and education; which looks to be an exceptionally good thing. It focuses on a number of issues relating to parenting and education in which good science shows us a different view from current cultural assumptions.

Here's a small sampling from the Introduction which will give you a little sense of what the authors' intentions and attitudes are:

We chose these topics because the research surprised us - it directly challenged the conventional point of view on how kids grow up.

However, once we parsed through the science and reviewed the evidence, the new thinking about children felt self-evident and logical, even obvious. It did not feel like we had to raise children "by the book." It felt entirely natural, a restoration of common sense. The old assumptions we once had seemed to be nothing but a projection of wishful thinking. Once we overcame the initial shock, we found ourselves plugged into children in a whole new way.

NurtureShock includes a fairly dense conglomeration of scientific studies on different topics which the authors have gotten heavily involved in. I loved how often they had actually sat down and observed studies conducted by experts in various micro-fields of child behavior while still sharing interesting stories about how their new-found knowledge had impacted their own families. Lots of cool stuff!

It's a book designed for the masses, so it's a relatively quick read, but weighty nonetheless. Incidentally, it never mentions homeschooling (and is completely secular in so far as it never mentions religion or spiritual dimensions - though good science will, naturally, have to take into account things like fallen human nature when studying human behavior), it may end up providing a morale boost to homeschool parents both because it provides pretty broad coverage of some of the things schools struggle with and because it highlights some of the things children need that are relatively easy and natural to provide at home.

The thing that perhaps struck me most about the book was the utter honesty of the authors and scientists, who were sharing information even when it wasn't what they *wanted* it to be; they were incredibly up-front about their own biases. Among other things, this makes it a sort of incomplete - in a natural and healthy and refreshing way. There's lots of stuff to stew on, some of which is quite paradoxical, and it's certainly a book I plan on re-reading and look forward to discussing with others.

Also, if you've read the New York Times' article on "How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise" (And if you haven't yet, you should!), you'll get a little taste, because this article (which debunks conventional thinking about "self-esteem") is written by one of the authors of NurtureShock and the subject matter of the article is part of what's covered in this book.

Here's a list of basic topics covered in the book (each chapter stands on its own):

1. "The Inverse Power of Praise": Basically, the self-esteem movement was somewhat misguided in thinking that children would feel better about themselves and do better if we just told them they were smart. The truth is, children (and likely adults too!) work better with specific praise about things that they have some control over - like putting good effort into something. Some of this material is found in the New York Times article above.

2. "The Lost Hour": A collection of studies on why children, especially teenagers, need more sleep. The surprising thing is how big an impact this can have on their school performance.

3. "Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race": A very interesting discussion on the negatives of assuming that children will learn appropriate social behavior and attitudes simply from hanging around other children. In addition, we are strongly reminded that parents need to be open (and even brave) about talking to our children about important issues - especially if they are sensitive ones that might make us uncomfortable.

4. "Why Kids Lie": An exposition on current research on lying and some helpful hints for parents - including the vital importance of truly acting like we value honesty. The comparison on various morality tales and how they impact children's behavior was quite fascinating.

5. "The Search for Intelligent Life in Kindergarten": This chapter details serious flaws in the way (and especially the age) in which children are being admitted (and not admitted!) into gifted programs in both public and private schools. This chapter also provides some helpful background on the intellectual development of children.

6. "The Sibling Effect" (Delightfully subtitled: "Freud was wrong. Shakespeare was right. Why siblings really fight."): The basic point is that sibling fights are almost entirely not about struggling for more parental attention. You can read a little more about this chapter in this ABC News article on "The New Science of Siblings".

7. "The Science of Teen Rebellion": This has a lot about the nature of arguments, some of which I'm still processing, but here's an interesting quote - a conclusion regarding a particular study - to give you a sense of it (Hurray for balance!):

The type of parents who were lied to the least had rules and enforced them consistently, but they had found a way to be flexible that allowed the rule-setting process to still be respected.

8. "Can Self-Control Be Taught?": Many interesting insights from a new preschool program/method that's showing great potential.

9. "Plays Well with Others": This covers a variety of parent and family issues that have an effect on how children behave. One of the most important overall themes is that as parents, it's not our job to protect our children from conflict, but to help them learn to deal with it - in large part by dealing with it reasonably ourselves. Discussions of "zero-tolerance" and the paradox of "socially savvy" children (both primarily focused on the school setting) were particularly valuable. Here's a telling paragraph:

We thought that aggressiveness was the reaction to peer rejection, so we have painstakingly attempted to eliminate peer rejection from the childhood experience. In its place is elaborately orchestrated peer interaction. We've created the play date phenomenon, while ladening older kids' schedules with after-school activities. We've segregated children by age - building separate playgrounds for the youngest children, and stratifying classes and teams. Unwittingly, we've put children into an echo chamber. Today's average middle schooler has a phenomenal 299 peer interactions a day. The average teen spends sixty hours a week surrounded by a peer group (and only sixteen hours a week surrounded by adults). This has created the perfect atmosphere for a different strain of aggression-virus to breed - one fed not by peer rejection, but fed by the need for peer status and social ranking. The more time peers spend together, the stronger this compulsion is to rank high, resulting in the hostility of one-upmanship. All those lessons about sharing and consideration can hardly compete. We wonder why it takes twenty years to teach a child how to conduct himself in polite society - overlooking the fact that we've essentially left our children to socialize themselves.

10. "Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn't": Fascinating information on research about how babies learn language, and particularly, learn to talk. Basically argues for natural responses from reasonably attentive parents as the ideal.

There were certainly a few things here and there that bothered me a little or set off my skeptometer (not so much regarding the scientific data as the commentary and even some minor assumptions surrounding it), but on the whole I rejoice at the publication of this very helpful book!

Overall, I found it to be a very helpful and worthwhile read. It would be particularly good for reading AND discussion (at least with your spouse - perhaps with a little group as well). Enthusiastically recommended!

Review Date: 
9-9-2009
Reviewed by: 

Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher

Book cover: 'Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher'
Author(s): 
Luke M. Grande, F.S.C.
Copyright: 
1962
Publisher: 
Roman Catholic Books
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
160 pages
Review: 

Based on twelve virtues that St. John Baptist de La Salle, patron saint of teachers, thought important for teachers to know, Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher is a reprint from 1962 that elaborates on these virtues. St. John Baptist de La Salle was an educational reformer and founder of the Brothers of Christian Schools in France during the 17th Century.

Although it is easy to understand, it is a book to read, digest, and reflect upon over and over again. In fact, it is a book that you would like to highlight every couple of pages, because of the pearls of wisdom it provokes the reader to meditate on. Even though the book is primarily written for teachers and many of the examples are addressed specifically for teachers, there is much that could be applied to parenting, since parents are the primary educators of their children, whether or not they choose to homeschool them.

When we are in the midst of the school year or even as we are planning the coming school year, it is easy for us to focus on the curriculum. Much of education is really character formation. It is the setting of the children's habits for a lifetime. What is a virtue? . . ."Virtue is a good habit"(46). What kind of virtues do we want our children to strive for? We can begin by setting an example for our children by striving to live the twelve virtues discussed in this book. By living them on a daily basis, we will be inculcating in our children habits that will last them a lifetime.

Too often as parents, we think, "if only" this child was more cheerful, patient, kind, etc., life would be so much simpler. It is much easier to focus on the faults of the child or the problem and forget to analyze our response to the child or the situation. This book is a wake up call to the teacher to consider his or her role in the education of the child. What is my example to my students?

By reading the list of virtues covered in this book (wisdom, prudence, piety, zeal, generosity, justice, kindness, firmness, humility, patience, seriousness, and silence), we may think, "What's the big deal? Is this just another self-help book? I already know those things." But do we really? And more importantly, do we live them?

This book asks the Catholic teacher to pause and carefully consider, "Do I live these virtues?" As Catholics, our viewpoint as teachers and parents should be radically different. We need to meditate on each one of these virtues. For example, "Wisdom sees the integrity of the Divine Plan; by its light the truly wise man sees--at least in broad outline--the relationship of one truth to another, the beginning and the end of Creation, one principle to another"(26). The teacher is asked "to see with the eyes of God"(26) and not the eyes of man. Another quote for the reader to contemplate is "Above all, wisdom enables a teacher to discern the part played by his own efforts in the scheme of Divine Providence, his high calling as a co-operator with God in His plans for men"(27).

In our striving for academic excellence, as parent-teachers with high and noble goals, we may sometimes put our pride before the needs of the child. In discussing the virtue of prudence, the author comments, "There is a time for the teaching of Dostoevski or calculus, but the prudent man reflects long and weighs the pros and cons carefully before, if ever, he attempts to teach them in a sophomore high-school class"(43).

When discussing the virtue of piety, the author reminds us that our example is of paramount importance. He quotes St. La Salle, "'Let us practice before their eyes what we are trying to teach them. We will make a greater impression on them by a wise and modest conduct than by a multitude of words'"(53). The author reminds the reader that "In a thousand ways he reveals to his students every day the depth and reality of his devotion to God"(53).

These are but a few of the pearls of wisdom to arouse the reader to examine her role as teacher in the impressionable lives of her students. As teachers and parents, we are learning right along beside our students. We are learning to strive to live the life of a saint. This is a difficult goal. In a world that offers many distractions, this book refocuses our attention on the higher things. It offers advice and encouragement to be a better teacher, and in a round about way, to be a better parent.

In closing, let us ponder one last thought. "It is kindness, the virtue which flows from the heart and leads the teacher to think of and to act toward the students as Christ would, that is of paramount importance for him, if he is to effect the greatest good in his students" (95). . . ."acts of kindness spring from love, in imitation of the acts of a loving Christ who said, 'Love one another, as I have loved you'(John 13:34)"(95).

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
7-13-04
Reviewed by: